Thomas O'Brien, 73, is a retired businessman who used to enjoy cycling and other recreational physical activities—but after he was injured in last month's crane collapse, he requires help just getting around. He's now planning to sue the city for $30 million dollars.
O'Brien was one of three people injured in the crane collapse that killed 38-year-old Upper West Sider David Wichs. O'Brien was sitting in a parked Jeep on the morning of February 5th, 2016 when the 565-foot-tall crane came crashing down on his vehicle. In addition to a skull fracture and two spinal fractures, O'Brien suffered injuries to his neck, back, arms, and legs, and needed multiple stitches for his head wounds, according to a Notice of Claim (the preemptor to a lawsuit) filed today.
The claim accuses the city of "carelessness, negligence, and recklessness...in the ownership, operation, control, repair, inspection, and maintenance of its premises, streets, roadways, construction sites, projects, and cranes." The subsequent injuries could have been avoided if the Department of Buildings had heeded weather reports of high winds on February 5th, O'Brien's lawyer argues.
"The city knew for several days that the wind gusts were going to reach 40 MPH prior to the accident, and they could have acted sooner," attorney Jonathan Damashek said.
O'Brien, who lives in North Easton, Massachusetts, was helping his daughter move to New York on the day of the crash and drove with her to a doctor's appointment on the block. She was just coming out of the building when the crane collapsed directly onto the car, Damashek said.
The crane on Worth Street was being lowered to safety during high winds when something went wrong and it crashed to the ground. Early forensic evidence indicated that the winds were indeed at 40 MPH when it collapsed, and the owner, Bay Crane, had been sued over faulty equipment in the past. Damashek says that his client intends to file suit against that crane company, contractor Glasso Transportation and Logistics, and the owners of 60 Hudson, the building outside of which the crane was stationed. They'll also sue the Department of Buildings, which Damashek says won't release its documents on the February crash.
A DOB spokesperson said that "the cause of the crane collapse on Worth Street remains under active investigation."
A Law Department spokesperson said that "the city will review the claim."
Following the crane's collapse, Mayor de Blasio called for a ban on the operation of crawler cranes in winds over 20 MPH, with fines of $10,000 for any sites in violation. But earlier this week, his working group—which has been criticized for its lack of actual crane experts—recommended reversing that ban.